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"Driving Scotland Forward" by Freda Rapson: 24 April 2001

An appreciative audience gathered at the Station Hotel in Perth to hear from Freda Rapson, who began her presentation by giving a potted history of Rapson's. The company's first involvement with the transport industry began in 1945 with the haulage of fish from Helmsdale harbour to the Aberdeen fish market. By the 1970s the Rapson sons were operating contracts to local schools (I know, because I was there!). The roots of the present company began in the 1980s when Sandy Rapson parted company from his brother and established his own coach business in Alness.

Freda believes that the success of the company is based on its "can do" ethos, the stability of the management structure, and the attitude of its staff. However, although staff development is now important to the company, there have been staffing difficulties in the past, particularly when recently acquired Highland Omnibuses drivers defected en-masse to its newly formed competitor Inverness Traction.

Freda advised that the growth of the company to become Scotland's largest independent coach operator, with a fleet of almost 250 vehicles, has partly been due to its non-aggressive take-overs of bus and coach companies throughout the Highland & Islands. The company is not over-reliant on any one type of business. Income is derived from school transport contracts, local bus service contracts and private hires, in addition to express service work carried out on behalf of Scottish Citylink and National Express. The Rapson Group has over 300 employees based at depots in Inverness, Aviemore, Thurso, Fort William, Portree, Shetland and Orkney.

Following Freda's presentation there were a number of interesting questions and observations from the audience on subjects including future expansion, freight possibilities in the internet age, and competition from the car. Graham Fraser gave an eloquent vote of thanks.

Report by Marion Mackay.


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